Groups Speak Out for Silent Victims of Ohio's Opioid Crisis
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio has still not escaped the clutches of the opioid epidemic and some groups say its youngest victims often are forgotten.
According to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO), nearly half of children taken into the care of social service agencies in 2015 had parents struggling with addiction, and about 1 in 4 had parents abusing opioids or heroin.
Their cases are complex, with some children born addicted to heroin and others who may have witnessed an overdose.
Scott Britton, assistant director of PCSAO, calls these children the silent victims of the opioid crisis.
"These children are often quite traumatized because the neglect that they've experienced in the home is extreme,” he states. “They can't always go into standard foster homes. They may need treatment foster homes. They may need residential foster care for some time, so their cases are much more expensive."
Britton applauds state leaders for their efforts so far to curb the epidemic, including increasing access to treatment options and reforming prescription drug prescribing practices.
But he contends that increased investment is desperately needed to help children impacted by the crisis.
Gov. John Kasich's recently announced biennial budget included no new funding for children's services agencies.
Ohio has seen a 12 percent increase in children in agency custody just in the past 5 years, and Britton says there's no doubt it's tied to the opioid crisis. He notes there are 14,000 children in care on any given day.
"We're seeing serious impacts on our agencies,” he stresses. “Their ability to provide really essential services to vulnerable children is at risk.“
And while child custody numbers are rising, Britton notes funding for the child welfare system has fallen 17 percent since 2009.
He adds that Ohio is last nationally when it comes to the state's share of child protection funding.